Continuing Revolution: The Legacy of Pino Pascali at Fondazione Prada

The art of Pino Pascali, a lasting journey through innovation and transgression, takes center stage at an extraordinary exhibition at the Fondazione Prada in Milan – Open to visit until September 23rd,2024. This spring season, the institution celebrates the artist from Bari, Italy, with a showcase of fifty of his most significant works, sourced from both Italian and international collections. The Pascali retrospective not only revisits his famous immersive environments and conceptual sculptures but also offers a fresh perspective on his brief yet intense career, tragically cut short at the young age of thirty-three. 

Pascali’s Debut

In 1965, Pino Pascali introduced a new concept of art with his first solo exhibition at Galleria La Tartaruga in Genoa, marking the start of a brief but intensely innovative career. In these early exhibitions, Pascali crafted art pieces; transforming exhibition spaces into immersive environments where visitors could physically interact with the installations. These environments, precisely recreated at Fondazione Prada, allow today’s visitors to experience the same sense of novelty and discovery that characterized the original shows of the time. Pascali’s ability to use everyday materials in extraordinary ways is evident in works like the “Bachi da setola,” sculptures made of nylon brushes that challenge traditional perceptions of art. These works not only demonstrate his skill in transforming common objects into art but also engage in social critique, playfully addressing themes of consumerism and nature in ironic and provocative ways.

Pascali’s exhibitions in the 1960s were stages where art became an event, a performance that invited spectators to actively participate rather than just passively observe. This approach helped to redefine the understanding of art as a field where interaction and personal experience are central, a legacy that continues to influence artists around the world.

The exhibition at Fondazione Prada recreates this dynamic and innovative atmosphere, offering a new generation the chance to discover the vitality and creativity of Pascali, underscoring how his work remains relevant and stimulating today. Each recreated environment is not just an exhibition of art, but an invitation to explore, think, and react, just as Pascali would have wanted.

“Pino Pascali”, Fondazione Prada, Milano, Ph. Roberto Marossi, Courtesy Fondazione Prada
“Pino Pascali”, Fondazione Prada, Milano, Ph. Roberto Marossi, photo copyright: Fondazione Prada

Innovative Materials and Consumerism

Pino Pascali had a natural inclination towards the use of unconventional materials that deeply characterized his artistic style. Through the exploration of elements such as plastic, soil, water, and even asbestos, he transformed these materials into artworks laden with meanings and cultural reflections. The exhibition at Fondazione Prada particularly highlights how Pascali exploited the intrinsic qualities of each material to explore and comment on themes such as consumerism and nature. Some pieces, made entirely of nylon brushes, are emblematic examples of how Pascali played with the idea of consumerism. These objects, typically used for cleaning, become animated creatures that ironically reflect on industrialization and the mass production of goods. The critique is subtle yet sharp, offering a reflection on the environmental and social consequences of excessive consumption. The use of asbestos in his installations introduces an even more provocative dimension.
As a material that is both hazardous and massively used in the industry, it speaks to the dual face of technological progress: innovation and danger, beauty and destruction.
These works not only prompt reflection on the materiality of art objects but also on their long-term impact on health and the environment. In this context, the major exhibition at Fondazione Prada becomes a place of discovery and critical reflection, where viewers are invited to ponder the deeper meanings of art and its role in society.
With these material narratives, Pascali leaves us a legacy of open questions about the ethics of artistic and industrial production.
“Pino Pascali”, Fondazione Prada, Milano, Ph. Roberto Marossi, Courtesy Fondazione Prada
“Pino Pascali”, Fondazione Prada, Milano, Ph. Roberto Marossi, photo copyright: Fondazione Prada
“Pino Pascali”, Fondazione Prada, Milano, Ph. Roberto Marossi, Courtesy Fondazione Prada
“Pino Pascali”, Fondazione Prada, Milano, Ph. Roberto Marossi, photo copyright: Fondazione Prada

Collaborations and Collectives

Within the context of group exhibitions, Pino Pascali emerges as a central figure in Arte Povera, interacting with key artists of the movement such as Jannis Kounellis, Michelangelo Pistoletto, and Alighiero Boetti. These collaborations are crucial for understanding the dynamics and innovation that Pascali brought to the Italian art scene of the 1960s. Fondazione Prada presents a series of these collective works, highlighting how Pascali was able to insert himself into and influence a broader artistic dialogue.

The interaction between Pascali’s works and those of his contemporaries showcases a vibrant art scene, where discarded materials and everyday objects were transformed into powerful expressions of art and social critique. A significant example of this interaction can be seen in the work “One Cubic Meter of Earth,” which, while being a minimalist sculpture, deeply engages with the themes of Arte Povera such as temporality and material decay. This work, like many others featured in the exhibition, serves to underline Pascali’s approach to sculpture not just as an artistic form, but as a medium to explore and comment on the cultural and environmental tensions of the time. Pascali’s participation in significant exhibitions of the time, such as those curated by Germano Celant, reveals his role in the evolution of contemporary art and his ability to remain relevant in a context of rapid cultural and social change. The section of the exhibition dedicated to collaborations thus offers a unique window into how Pascali’s ideas were both personal and participative, immersed in an ongoing dialogue with other artists.

“Pino Pascali”, Fondazione Prada, Milano, Ph. Roberto Marossi, Courtesy Fondazione Prada
“Pino Pascali”, Fondazione Prada, Milano, Ph. Roberto Marossi, photo copyright: Fondazione Prada

The Interaction between Art and Photography

Throughout his career, Pino Pascali developed a profound collaboration with photographers of the caliber of Claudio Abate, Andrea Taverna, and Ugo Mulas, who captured the essence of his works and his interaction with them. These photographs, displayed in the last section of the exhibition at Fondazione Prada, represent much more than simple documentation: they are extensions of Pascali’s creative process, exploring the dynamics between art and photography and offering new interpretations of his sculptures. The images show Pascali at work or posing next to his creations, often in a theatrical manner, emphasizing his performative approach to art.

These photographic sessions reveal how the artist perceived art as an ongoing dialogue between the creator, the work, and the observer, with photography acting as a visual mediator capable of altering and amplifying the meaning of the works. A notable example is the series of photographs of “32 Square Meters of Sea,” where Pascali used water to create illusions of space and depth. The images not only document this installation but also invite reflection on the hallucinogenic properties of water and its ability to radically transform the perception of artistic space. In addition to documenting moments of creativity, these photographs were used by Pascali to explore themes such as transience and illusion, central elements in his art. Through the lens of the camera, Pascali’s sculptures gain new life, revealing levels of meaning that extend beyond their physical presence. The interaction between Pascali and his photographers was not limited to mere recording of events; it was an extension of his work that allowed experimentation with form, movement, and light. These collaborations enabled his works to be seen from constantly different perspectives and helped to solidify his status as an innovator. Through thematic sections, the exhibition not only pays tribute to Pascali’s genius but also offers a unique opportunity to appreciate the breadth and depth of his impact to this day.

Fondazione Prada, with this retrospective, also stimulates a broader reflection on how art can interact with and transform society, challenging perceptions and leaving a lasting and profound impression.

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